Posted on Jul 20th 2023
Dog Training Elite is excited to announce that we will be bringing our signature training methods to South Bend, Indiana, thanks to business partners, Richard Naponelli and Diana Hyepock! Our team is always excited to award and welcome every new Franchise Owner, but we’re especially excited when it’s someone that already works in the pet industry and is looking to provide more services to the four-legged friends of their communities.
With much of Indiana climbing with their high levels of pet ownership, especially post-pandemic, the Dog Training Elite team looks forward to Richard and Diana’s inevitable growth. As they expand their dog-focused businesses and continue to follow their passion of serving dogs and their owners across Indiana, the corporate team and the entire network of Dog Training Elite Franchise Owners will be cheering them on!
Now, let’s get to know a little more about Richard and Diana and find out what they have planned for their very own Dog Training Elite territory
Welcoming Richard & Diana to the Pack From Practicing Law to Walking Dogs
Richard began his career getting his B.B.A. in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame before graduating from Loyola University, Chicago with his law degree in 2007. As he continued to live and work in the Greater Chicago area, he focused on everything from tax work to estate planning during his eight years there. While still in Chicago, Richard spent his personal time playing hockey, before starting his family and making the move to South Bend, Indiana. Today, between his now two businesses, one new dog, and two children, Richard stays busy but has maintained the goal of getting back into hockey as his schedule allows.
How Richard Met Diana
Once Richard made the decision to leave his fundraising position at the University of Notre Dame after successfully building and running a team for five years, he looked forward to his next venture. Having grown to love building strong, functional teams, he set off to build a business and team for himself. After discussions with others regarding the world of franchising, Richard was introduced to Fetch Pet Care, a franchise that specializes in dog walking and pet sitting services. It was in this new business journey that he met and hired Diana as a member of his Fetch team.
Diana: The Local Pet Care Mainstay
Since she was a child, Diana remembers being naturally drawn to animals, leading her to dream of becoming a biologist or zoologist as she grew up. While she took her passion in another direction, Diana first joined the pet care and animal industry in 1995 working in a retail pet goods shop. Ever since then, she’s gained extensive experience in every aspect of the industry, from retail and grooming to even veterinary and dog training.
While animals of all kinds, shapes, and sizes hold Diana’s attention, in 2020, she found a unique niche in the pet industry that has since held a place in her heart: service animals.
Diana’s Dive Into Service Animal Training
At the very beginning of the pandemic, Diana recognized her daughter’s need for a service animal. She knew of service dog trainers in her area, so the family planned to adopt a puppy and put them through the training process shortly thereafter. However, just two weeks after finding the perfect eight-week-old puppy, the world began to shut down, including the training services around her.
to help. However, her search turned up empty. Instead of giving up, she leaned on her previous training experience and chose to learn everything she could about the complex world of service animal training so her daughter could still receive the support she needed and deserved. It’s this experience that instilled Diana’s belief that more people need access to service animal training, and she’s excited to provide this to her community.
Connecting with Dog Training Elite
Before Richard started looking at Dog Training Elite’s franchise ownership opportunity, he and Diana experienced training firsthand with one of their existing Fetch customers. This client had recently accepted a new job that kept him from home for 12+ hours each day, resulting in his dog ripping apart the home each day. After learning this, Richard and Diana jumped at the opportunity to help and offer training. Once they saw the rapid transformation that helped the client and pet stay together, the pair knew they had a viable new service they could offer their community.
While both Richard and Diana share a love of animals and have had their fair share of pets throughout their lives, it was Richard’s desire to start a variety of businesses in the pet industry that led him to his first franchise. Once he became more familiar with all the services that would complement his existing business, he started chatting with Diana about her dog training experience and how they could leverage that through another business opportunity.
After getting a list of franchises in the dog training business from his career coach, it was Diana that did some further research to decide which would make the cut. As she looked into Dog Training Elite more, Diana fell in love with the approach, the culture, the therapy animal services they offered, and the variety of non-profit causes promoted to Franchise Owners for adoption.
Why Franchising? Richard Has a Few Thoughts
"You get the best of both worlds. You get the benefits of a large corporation that has been doing this for a long time and the benefits of a small local business,” Richard shared in a recent chat with our team. Since this isn’t Richard’s first franchise rodeo, he’s a big proponent of the arrangement.
When asked, he passes on one key piece of advice: “Do your due diligence.” He has loved building his pet-based Franchise Ownership businesses so far, but it only started once he confirmed he had the information he needed to confirm he was comfortable entering into his new long-term business relationships.
Getting to Know Dog Training Elite
From the first moment Richard and Diana stepped into this new relationship with Dog Training Elite, they were surrounded by other owners’ and corporate team members’ dogs – an environment that felt especially welcoming! With her research moving from the digital to the real world, Diana felt she’d made the right decision to close the doors on her own dog training business in favor of Dog Training Elite’s established franchise. On the other hand, Richard had another perspective to add, especially as a current Owner with another franchise and having researched other franchises himself:
“You know, a lot of times, you get into these franchises and it’s about money. It’s about ‘Oh, this is a great idea – let’s go make money with it.’ And it was a great idea and there’s a lot of money to be made, but you could tell the people that were hired in corporate have a passion for animals, passion for dogs, passion for training, and the good that can come out of training. It shows, especially at the approval days.”
Their Secret to (Future) Success
Both Diana and Richard have already established themselves in the pet service world in their market, so they have the know-how and existing connections that they plan to supplement by learning everything they can about the Dog Training Elite culture and processes. With this, they plan to have a solution they can provide to their clients – and their dogs! As amazing as that is, not all our Franchise Owners have dog experience – but that’s okay! Our business model is designed for anyone, of any background to succeed, whether they’re doing the training themselves, or they’re taking a semi-absentee role.
Together, Richard and Diana agree that their future success will lie in one thing: people. For one, Richard believes that there is no one better suited to a Dog Training Elite franchise than her, thanks to her knowledge, passion, and dedication to the dogs they’ll see.
However, Richard also recognizes that as they scale and continue to introduce this type of structure into their market, it will allow them to hire more great people and allow clients to find the best dog training services around that don’t require two, three, or four-month wait lists. With the gap that exists between pet stores and little mom-and-pop shops, as well as those looking for service animals, the pair looks forward to bringing a new, passionate approach to dog training in their community.
“I’ve seen how these animals can help people so much, which is–again–one of the reasons why we love this because [there are] so many different options – service, therapy, personal protection – that we can help people with. And bringing that to people on a larger scale, I think is really going to be transformative for many people,” Richard illustrated in a recent sit-down with our team after he and Diana were awarded their franchise.
Excitement for Their New Future
As excited as this pair is about expanding their service offerings to their existing clientele and adding more clients to their community, both Diana and Richard have a number of things they look forward to – other than all the wonderful dogs they can’t wait to meet! Whether they’re working on expanding their market or giving back in the form of service animal training or working with local non-profits, these business partners can’t wait to get started. In one last thought, Diana added: “The more lives you can touch, the better and the happier I am.”
Are you ready to start your own Dog Training Elite franchise? Whether you’re begging for a way out of the corporate grind, or you’re hungry for a more fulfilling career, Dog Training Elite is the franchise that can give you the model and support you need to get to your new happy place and achieve your financial goals. Get in touch with our team to learn more about the territories available to you and why Dog Training Elite may be the best franchise opportunity for you and your community.